Louisiana Tech's Taylor Young, 'a dirtbag and grinder,' is one of baseball's best leadoff hitters
Taylor Young isn’t concerned about what makes up a good, or even great, leadoff hitter.
Not recording the first out and being the team’s first baserunner are too elementary of ideas when the Louisiana Tech senior steps to the plate.
“It’s a one-on-one matchup,” Young said. “It’s me versus the pitcher and I have the weapon. I have the advantage there.”
Young has effectively utilized being the weapon through for Louisiana Tech, which began a four-game series at FIU on Friday night. He’s made a staunch case for himself in the debate for the college baseball's best in 2021, having led the country in runs scored the last couple of weeks and tied for second with 52 entering Friday's game.
How Young, the starting second baseman and West Monroe native, measures his role and success at the top of a stacked lineup starts with his approach days before and builds through each time he crosses home plate.
“He’s a dirtbag and a grinder, but he’s really smart and really studies the game,” Tech coach Lane Burroughs said. “He’s our coach out there, he runs everything. He knows what everybody is doing and all the calls. He’s locked in.
“He’s the one hanging back in scouting report after everyone leaves and he’s studying the pitcher on video, trying to pick out any edge he can get. You really can’t (put into words how much he means to this team). You’re so glad he’s one of us.”
The art of leading off for Young contains a harmonious mixture of patience yet aggression along with stubbornness and selflessness.
“Leading off the game, it’s as much about the guys behind me in the lineup seeing the pitcher,” Young said. “I want to see everything pitch he’s got and if I do, that’s an advantage for us. (There are) eight guys behind me, so you have to grind it out with the pitcher. I want to make him work for that first out.”
In 56 hits through 43 games (.346 batting average) and his team-leading 29 walks, Young has failed to reach base in just two games. It’s that level of consistency, Burroughs said, along with Young’s confidence that has generated his scoring prowess and propelled him into the top leadoff hitter conversation.
“He leads the country in runs scored. I was a leadoff hitter and in my opinion, that the biggest stat there is offensively. Theme of the game is to cross home plate. RBIs and runs scored are the two most important stats. Getting on base and scoring a lot for your team,” Burroughs said. “That’s all you need to know about Taylor.
“He’s a very confident kid, has been his whole life. He’s got some toughness. Greatest players I’ve ever coached, they go 0-for-4 and come to the ballpark next day and think they’re the best player there. He has the ability to move past any failure he may have and thinks he’s going to come through every time. We’ve got a lot of those guys in our lineup. When you got that, you’re tough to beat.”
Failure was something Young had to navigate earlier this season, striking out more than he ever had in his career. What he and hitting coach Mitch Gaspard discovered reviewing video was pitchers were throwing to him like he was a three- or four-hole hitter.
Young saw fewer strikes and he needed to shift to be more opportunistic.
The adjustment boded well for Young, who at 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, is now tied for the team lead in home runs with seven. Dating to the start of the shortened 2020 season, Young has 12 homers in his last 60 games.
“He has that Dustin Pedroia power. If he does have a few weaknesses, he’ll hit a few homers and we'll have to reel him back in – he thinks he’s Barry Bonds and his swing will get out of whack,” Burroughs said.
His leadership factors into Young’s belief of what makes up the best leadoff hitter in college baseball. He’s hesitant to say who he is off the field but on it, he doesn’t shy away from the thought.
“I feel like I’m the spark plug for the team at the top of the order. I’m the leader in the middle infield,” Young said. “I bring the energy for the team and I’m there for anyone struggling or succeeding. I want to make sure everyone is bought in for our ultimate goal to get to Omaha.
“I’m not going to say I’m the best but when I’m at the plate, I think I’m the best.”